Zane Koss deposited Prehistoric Canadian Networks: Louis Dudek, Marshall McLuhan and the Post in the group LLC Canadian on MLA Commons 1 year, 6 months ago
In 1949, Montreal poet Louis Dudek circulated a package of poetry manuscripts through a decentralized network of writers working in the U.S. and Canada that he called the “Poetry Grapevine.” In the manifesto-like instructions for the project, Dudek declares that “THERE IS A LOT MORE HAPPENING IN OUR DAILY LIVING CONSCIOUSNESS (NOT TO SPEAK OF UNCONSCIOUSNESS) THAN WE CAN GET INTO POETRY WITH EXISTING METHODS.” Dudek’s experimental network would work to capture these neglected forms of consciousness by adopting the set of “DYNAMIC PRINCIPLES” that he lays out. The poems Dudek included in the package, not published until a 1980 retrospective, are more visually experimental than anything else in Dudek’s oeuvre through the incorporation of concrete elements.
In my paper, I use these materials—alongside a similar experiment in postal distribution that Marshall McLuhan mailed to Dudek ca. 1953—to think through the ways in which this archive forms one prehistory of verbi-voco-visual poetics in Canada. My argument follows from two related questions: In what ways did these postal experiments allow writers like Dudek and McLuhan to anticipate the ways in which digital networks reconfigured the possibilities of experimental poetry after the advent of the internet? And how might the connection that Dudek draws between the dispersed network of the “Poetry Grapevine” and speculative modes of rendering consciousness help to re-frame the existing view of Dudek’s later work as an effort to trace the unfolding of a single, private consciousness through the focus on collective forms of networked consciousness toward which the Grapevine gestures?